I Saw A Film!

As a lad I watched hours of the old Gerry Anderson serial that pitted high-tech flying craft equipped with surprising capabilities against immanent dangers. I could still draw you crude pictures of the five principal crafts and for a long time joked that my van carrying my bike was Thunderbird 2 transporting my version of Thunderbird 4. Yeah, pretty nerdy stuff. Revisiting the old electronic marionettes and their equipment decades later (it’s been since the 70s since I’ve seen any of it) it is both surprising and mildly and oddly disappointing.

Firstly, let’s get this out of the way, the illusions and the puppetry are first rate. The artistry and models are terrific, and while there are sleight of hand moments, for example, inserting real human body parts occasionally in close up, you will quickly forget that what you’re seeing is being painstakingly faked. Thank aspect of painstaking effort is what makes these shows so fascinating now. Though, as a kid I was much more wow’d by each piece of equipment and the derring-do of the whole International Rescue team. However, decades later I’m amazed at how slowly the plot moves. And, how annoying the devotion to the loving examination of the models actually is. I couldn’t get enough of it as a 10 year old. The puppets moving their mouths and eyes in sync–an old tech that was being used to create cool light shows that throbbed to music–to voices, totally had me involved. The spookily alive marionettes pulled off plenty of astonishing feats that seemed somehow beyond normal animation or even claymation. Of course, coming back to it as a middle aged man, I can really see how often my heroes are seated or immobile. Action is really limited almost entirely to the faces, and even there we are really using our imaginations to pull off the trick.

The Plot of the story is one of intrigue. A new, and very cool ship designed by Brains of the IR team has been hi-jacked with our Penelope on board. There is puppet violence. Guns are fired all over the place, including by Penelope. She’s no delicate flower! And eventually the newfangled anti-gravity device keeping the airship afloat is damaged and the ship balances precipitously on some towers. The IR team has to lash a couple of the Thunderbirds to it to hold it up, but they can’t for long! Finally, a biplane is brought in to land on the airship and rescue the remaining passengers.

Unfortunately, though the mix of high fantasy tech and old style aircraft being mixed is a terrific idea, bringing home the idea that even old tech has its place in the modern world, the biplane takes up a tedious amount of film time. By the time we were making our own models and illicitly setting them on fire or shooting them to bits with pellet guns it was clear that Gerry Anderson was really just a big kid in love with blowing shit up. And the finale is a gas-bombers delight, a compression of all the Thunderbirds’ explosions leveraged into one major fire fire fire! moment.

It also gets rather silly when the mute trumpet “womp-womp” sound is used a bit too many times, signaling that this isn’t really being made for adults. But omg imagine it for adults! Imagine a more Archer style version of International Rescue. Team America World Police did touch on it in form, but it still didn’t have the aspect of espionage and serial psychoses that something like Archer or Crossing Swords (also on Hulu) can provide. Maybe there’s a spot for a Gerry Anderson revival!

This film runs on Prime for free, but likely won’t really hold your attention unless you were a fan as a kid.

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